The EU-India free trade agreement and access to medicines

Third World Network | Third World Resurgence | No. 259, March 2012, pp 15-19

The free trade agreement which India is negotiating with the European Union threatens to jettison some of the health safeguards in India’s patent legislation which make possible the production of cheap generic medicines. Kajal Bhardwaj identifies the draft treaty provisions which raise serious concern.

Since 2007, India and the European Union (EU) have been negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) that has attracted global concern over its potential impact on the manufacture, supply and distribution of generic medicines from India.

Till recently, the EU had not figured among the developed nations that aggressively pursue intellectual property protection in excess of the World Trade Organisation (WTO)’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). These so-called TRIPS-plus provisions, which are known to have an adverse impact on generic production, typically featured in FTAs negotiated by the United States such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and a host of other US FTAs negotiated with developing countries.

However, leaked versions of the EU-India FTA negotiation texts in 2009, 2010 and 2011 show that the EU, in a stark departure from its traditional model of trade negotiations, is now demanding ambitious TRIPS-plus measures of developing countries ( In the case of India, the demands, if accepted, would have an impact not just on patients in India but also on those across the developing world.

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